Issue 60

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Family Matters No. 60, 2001

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The year 2001 marks four anniversaries of relevance to the Australian Institute of Family Studies: the Centenary of Federation; the Institute's own twenty-first birthday; the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Family Court of Australia; and the centenary of the Australian Public Service.  

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Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Meredith Michie, Catherine Rosenbrock, Ann Sanson, David Stanton, Ruth Weston and Sarah Wise

Editor: Meredith Michie

Cover art: Christmas Day - Brighton Beach, near Melbourne. Engraving by F. Grosse after a drawing by Nicholas Chevalier. Published in the Illustrated Melbourne Post, 22 December 1864. Reproduction coloured by Pru Wilson, 1994, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 60
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2001, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Changing families in Australia 1901-2001

Michael Gilding

In order to understand where the family is heading, it helps to know whence it has come. This article maps out the dimensions of family change over the past one hundred years in Australia. In particular it focuses upon the changing structure of households. The author notes that in the public sphere there is a history of 'moral panics' and anxieties around the family, and he discusses the sense that family structure 'has gone a full circle - from diverse families, to nuclear families, and back to diverse families again - a view that emphasises the ebb and flow of family relationships'. In conclusion, the author comments that, while the moral panic around the family seems less shrill now than was the case in the 1970s and the 1980s, 'dramatic developments in biotechnology may unleash a new wave of family change and controversy. There will certainly be new anxieties and moral panics concerning the future of the family'.

Australian families in transition: Sociodemographic trends 1901-2001

Ruth Weston, David Stanton, Lixia Qu and Grace Soriano

The concern generated by family change sometimes causes great angst. But it can also be a sign of healthy vigilance about the direction society is heading - its ability to adapt and evolve. This article traces key transitions in family life since Federation, some of their causes, and how we might best understand their implications. The article focuses on changing patterns of common family transitions - young adults leaving home, forming partnerships, having children, divorcing, repartnering - transitions that have profound effects on each family member and on the structure of the family as a whole. Tables and graphs provide key comparative statistics over time, for example: young men and women living with their parents; percentage of men and women aged 45-49 years who have ever married; age specific first marriage rates; fertility rates; divorce rates; family types; labour force partipation of married women and women with dependent children.

Families and income security: Changing patterns of social security and related policy issues

Peter Whiteford, David Stanton and Matthew Gray

This article outlines the development of policies in Australia that have the objective of providing income security to families with children. It discusses the Australian system of support for families with children and focuses on child-related income supplements and those income support payments provided to families with children. The main historical developments are described and the major factors under-pinning these changes are identified. The authors show that there are lessons, both positive and negative, to be learned from Australia's experiences with assisting families with children over the last century. The article includes a table chronologically setting out major policy developments, family and related payments, 1901-2001.

Children and parenting: The past hundred years

Ann Sanson and Sarah Wise

Beliefs, attitudes and practices regarding parents' care for their children have been changing over the past century, with new views being particularly reflected in the advice meted out to parents by professionals. This historical overview presents a broad-brush picture of some of the general trends and striking features of child rearing over the last century. The authors look at prevailing theories of children and childhood, and changes in understanding of child development over the period; outline some of the key societal shifts which affected family life and the parent role; and draw on these analyses in discussing some of the changes in beliefs, attitudes, and practices regarding parents' care for their children over the century.

A history of child protection: Back to the future?

Adam Tomison

The maltreatment of children has occurred through history. This article gives an overview of the development of child protection and efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. It highlights the cyclical nature of the evolution of child protection services, noting that many of the current approaches have been tried a number of times over the last 150 years and look likely to be re-applied in the next few decades.

Starting out together: Cohabitation or marriage

Lixia Qu and Ruth Weston

Over the last few decades, family formation patterns have changed considerably. Increasing numbers of couples are cohabiting, although the majority still eventually marry. A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies highlights the changing trends in relationship formation and subsequent pathways. Based on data from the Australian Life Course Study, this article focuses on the first unions of women born in different years. It looks at how the first union of these women started (whether it began with cohabitation or marriage) and how old they were when they entered their first union. The proportions of women born in different years who had a child within four years of the start of their first union are also examined.

Making marriages last

Robyn Parker

Why do some marriages dissolve in a relatively short space of time, while others go on for as long as 75 years or more, still vibrant happy relationships enjoyed by both partners? This article examines theoretical explanations of how marriages 'succeed' or 'fail' and reviews three studies that have gone to the source and asked long-married couples how they explain the longevity of their marriage.

The first twenty-one years: 21 years - Australian Institute of Family Studies

Catherine Rosenbrock

The Australian Institute of Family Studies was established in February 1980 under Part XIVA of the Family Law Act 1975. This article examines how the Institute has developed over the past 21 years, reflects upon its performance against the expectations held, and looks forward to what might be achieved in the future. Also included are names of board members, directors, research managers and portfolio ministers of the Institute over the period, and an account of the legislative background to the Institute.

Emerging family research issues 2002: 21 years - Australian Institute of Family Studies

Ann Sanson

In this overview of emerging research issues for the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the author outlines the principles and processes which will underlie the selection of research topics which the Institute should address and how it should do so. It also identifies and discusses three broad and overlapping thematic areas where research data will need to inform policy and practice: diversity, change, and the interactions of family with work and community.

Establishment of the Family Court of Australia and its early years: A personal perspective: 25 years - The Family Court

John Fogarty

The author, who was a Judge of the Family Court of Australia from its inception in 1976 to 1998, reflects on the background and events leading up to the Family Law Act of 1975, and the establishment of the Family Court. The early years of operation of the Court and difficulties faced by the Court are discussed, as are issues such as separation as a ground for divorce, the establishment of the Family Court of Western Australia, the Family Law Council, and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.